Supplement Feature - February 2019
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Aquatic Trends Report

By Emily Tipping


Challenges & Issues

Aquatic facilities are complex, involving everything from staff management and training to water safety and management of equipment and much more. The challenges and issues that arise are likewise complex. According to respondents to the aquatic survey, staffing, budgets, and equipment facility maintenance are the top issues facing aquatic facilities.

More than half of respondents said the top issues facing the aquatics industry include staffing (56.1 percent), budgetary issues (55.3 percent), and equipment and facility maintenance (53.8 percent). More than one-third (35.3 percent) said safety and risk management is a top issue, and more than one-fifth (20.6 percent) said conservation of energy, water and other resources is a top concern. (See Figure 28.)


Smaller percentages listed other concerns among the top issues facing the aquatics industry, including: new programming ideas (16.5 percent); marketing and improving attendance (14.9 percent); managing water and air quality (14.2 percent); outreach to minorities and other underrepresented audiences (10.1 percent); and regulatory issues (7.5 percent).

Parks respondents were more likely than the average respondents to name staffing as the top issue facing the aquatics industry. Some 61.1 percent of parks respondents said this was the top issue. Other top issues for parks respondents included: budgets (59.5 percent); equipment and facility maintenance (55.1 percent); safety and risk management (29.5 percent); and conservation of energy, water and other resources (17.5 percent).

For college respondents, the top issues were: budget issues (61.9 percent); equipment and facility maintenance (57.1 percent); safety and risk management (44.8 percent); staffing (42.9 percent); and conservation of energy and other resources (23.8 percent).

For school respondents, the top issues were: budget concerns (70.7 percent); equipment and facility maintenance (53.7 percent); staffing (41.5 percent); conservation of resources (31.7 percent); and safety and risk management (26.8 percent), and managing air and water quality (26.8 percent).

Among Y respondents, the top issues were: staffing (66.7 percent); safety and risk management (46.2 percent); budgetary issues (43.6 percent); equipment and facility maintenance (37.2 percent); and managing air and water quality (19.2 percent).

Camp respondents named the following as their top issues: equipment and facility maintenance (68 percent); staffing (58 percent); safety and risk management (50 percent); budgets (30 percent); and conservation of resources (24 percent).

Among respondents from community sports and recreation centers, the top issues of concern were: staffing (57.1 percent); budgets (57.1 percent); equipment and facility maintenance (50 percent); conservation of resources (28.6 percent); and safety and risk management (26.8 percent).

Many respondents discussed the difficulties of finding lifeguards. As one summed up, "Need more lifeguards. Desperate for more lifeguards. So very, very short on lifeguards."

This seemed to be the prevailing sentiment in comments from respondents. And for those who had enough lifeguards, other staffing issues still came to the fore: "Making sure staff stays focused and attentive while serving as lifeguards. We only have them work 30-minute segments. Even then, several of them don't do the best job of staying focused."

Another said, "The industry is undervalued, and we don't treat aquatics as a career, and that leads to constant turnover. Until the positions are taken seriously, we will never have long-term, reliable employees."

Others discussed the problem of budget constraints, and the effect that has on the rest of the aquatic operation. "Budget constrains affect everything else: marketing, automation/conservation/sustainability, and new attractions like slides," one respondent said.

Another said, "A lot of maintenance and capital projects were deferred during the recession and are still not being funded."

"Our waterparks are an enterprise," another said. "Therefore they need to operate in the black. With aging facilities, it has become challenging to keep pace with repairs and revenue generation to cover."

Another said, "We are a heavily used facility with more needs than we have space for. Our issues stem from being able to keep the facility operational enough for when major systems break down—air handling, pool pumps, etc. Many components are custom-made, and having the spare equipment on hand in the event of a failure can be cost-prohibitive."